Travel Tip Tuesday: A Quick Phrase Guide for Visiting Italy


Travel Tip Tuesday

I don’t know what it is about the men from my graduating class-Go Lions!-but I’ve been inundated lately with requests to help them plan an Italian vacation for their wives. I mean, who knew they were so romantic? Maybe my fellow female classmates shoudda held on to those boys when they had them.


As I was saying, there are a lot of people crossing the pond this summer and heading to the Bel Paese. I’ve written detailed posts on how to choose a destination in Italy, how to travel on the trains and even how to stay safe in the Eternal City … Heck, I’ve even written 50 tips for traveling in Italy-Part I and Part II.

Still, I received a rushed email in the wee morning hours just a day and a half before someone’s first big Italian vacation.

“Can you help me, Cherrye? I just need a few words to get by … I want to look like I’m trying.”


So I sent a quick reply with some of my best off-the-top-of-my-head phrases-and I’m sharing that with you.

Contrary to what many Americans believe, all Italians don’t speak and/or understand English-especially in small villages, southern regions or untouristy cities. So don’t rely on that. I also advise people who don’t speak Italian well to carry a small notebook and pen and instead of asking for directions orally, ask that they be written. It might be easier to read “go straight until you see the Duomo, then turn left at the piazza,” than understand it.

Here is a handful of Italian phrases that might be helpful during your next trip!

Hello & goodbye (informal) = Ciao (pronounced: Chow)

Good night = Buona notte (pronounced: BWOHnah NOHT-tay)

Yes = Si (pronounced: See)

No = No (pronounced: No)

Thank you = Grazie (pronounced: GRAHtseea)

Please = Per favore (pronounced: Pehr fah VOE-ray)

You’re welcome = Prego (pronounced: like the tomato sauce)

Excuse me (like if you bump into someone) = Scusi (pronounced: Scoo zee)

Excuse me (like if you want to pass by) = Permesso (pronounced: Pehr-MAY-so)

I don’t understand = Non capisco (pronounced: Non ka pee sko)

How do you say this in Italian? = Como si dice questo in Italiano? (pronounced: Komo say dichay kwesto in ee tal y ano?)

Do you speak English? = Parla Inglese? (pronounced: Par la eeng lay say?)

Who? = Chi? (pronounced: Key?)

What? = Che cosa? (pronounced: Kay ko sa?)

Why? = Perche? (pronounced: Pehr kay?)

When? = Quando? (pronounced: Kwahn doe?)

Where? = Dove? (pronounced: Doe vay?)

How? = Come? (pronounced: Koh may?)

How much? = Quanto? (pronounced: Kwan toe?)

What time is it? = Che ora e? (pronounced: Keh OH-rah eh)

Need a little more help? Check out About.Com’s Guide to the Italian Language and listen to some of their audios.

What other phrases do you think travelers should know? What did you wish you knew last time you were out and about in Italy?

Until next time … Buon Viaggio!

5 Responses
  1. When you walk into a store/bar etc. say “Buon Giorno” (good day) unless it’s late, then it’s “Buona Sera” (good evening).

    Visitors might hear “salve” (sal vey) a lot from salespeople in Rome. It’s not as formal as Buon giorno but not as casual as ciao.
    Good one with the buona sera, etc. I hate that time when it is like 2:00 PM … some say giorno, some say sera, almost no one here says “pomeriggio!”
    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..The Champions League Final in Rome – God help us.

  2. don’t forget the most important phrase…”dov’e’ il bagno?” and the response usually is…”la in fondo (a destra or a sinistra)” i’ve been using to learn Italian and it’s been the most useful so far. (b/c now I can actually have a conversation with la mia suocera)
    Oooh, good one. And congrats on speaking with your MIL.
    Sonia P’s last blog post..2 years down… 48 more to go!!

  3. Brandi

    I love these! I never realize how close Italian is to Spanish. I think I could get by there well enough.
    Then come on over, girl! I know your mom has been talking about it.

  4. Good basic Italian tips.

    Another useful phrase is: ‘posso avere’ – pohsso avairah – ‘Can I have’ – just tack on what you want, and you are away!

    Posso avere una birra – beer
    Posso avere un panino – sandwich
    Posso avere del vino rosso – some wine red
    Posso avere del acqua – some water

    For those travelling in two or more, try ‘possiamo avere’ – can we have…..?

    Great additions! Thank you, Alex.
    Alex’s last blog post..Swine Flu in Italy – Update 3

  5. Congratulations on a fine blog and some truly handy posts. Been most interesting to browse and I’ll certainly be back for more. Keep up the good work!
    Grazie mille.

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